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SECOND DIVISION
G.R. No. 195670 December 3, 2012
WILLEM BEUMER, Petitioner,
vs.
AVELINA AMORES, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
PERLAS-BERNABE, J .:
Before the Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari
1
under Rule 45 of the Rules of CoLlli assailing the
October 8, 2009 Decision
2
and January 24, 2011 Resolution
3
of the court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV
No. 01940, which affirmed the February 28, 2007 Decision
4
of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Negros
Oriental, Branch 34 in Civil Case No. I 2884. The foregoing rulings dissolved the conjugal partnership of
gains of Willem Beumer (petitioner) and Avelina Amores (respondent) and distributed the properties
forming part of the said property regime.
The Factual Antecedents
Petitioner, a Dutch National, and respondent, a Filipina, married in March 29, 1980. After several years,
the RTC of Negros Oriental, Branch 32, declared the nullity of their marriage in the Decision
5
dated
November 10, 2000 on the basis of the formers psychological incapacity as contemplated in Article 36 of
the Family Code.
Consequently, petitioner filed a Petition for Dissolution of Conjugal Partnership
6
dated December 14,
2000 praying for the distribution of the following described properties claimed to have been acquired
during the subsistence of their marriage, to wit:
By Purchase:
a. Lot 1, Block 3 of the consolidated survey of Lots 2144 & 2147 of the Dumaguete Cadastre,
covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 22846, containing an area of 252 square
meters (sq.m.), including a residential house constructed thereon.
b. Lot 2142 of the Dumaguete Cadastre, covered by TCT No. 21974, containing an area of 806
sq.m., including a residential house constructed thereon.
c. Lot 5845 of the Dumaguete Cadastre, covered by TCT No. 21306, containing an area of 756
sq.m.
d. Lot 4, Block 4 of the consolidated survey of Lots 2144 & 2147 of the Dumaguete Cadastre,
covered by TCT No. 21307, containing an area of 45 sq.m.
By way of inheritance:
e. 1/7 of Lot 2055-A of the Dumaguete Cadastre, covered by TCT No. 23567, containing an area
of 2,635 sq.m. (the area that appertains to the conjugal partnership is 376.45 sq.m.).
f. 1/15 of Lot 2055-I of the Dumaguete Cadastre, covered by TCT No. 23575, containing an area
of 360 sq.m. (the area that appertains to the conjugal partnership is 24 sq.m.).
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In defense,
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respondent averred that, with the exception of their two (2) residential houses on Lots 1 and
2142, she and petitioner did not acquire any conjugal properties during their marriage, the truth being that
she used her own personal money to purchase Lots 1, 2142, 5845 and 4 out of her personal funds and
Lots 2055-A and 2055-I by way of inheritance.
9
She submitted a joint affidavit executed by her and
petitioner attesting to the fact that she purchased Lot 2142 and the improvements thereon using her own
money.
10
Accordingly, respondent sought the dismissal of the petition for dissolution as well as payment
for attorneys fees and litigation expenses.
11

During trial, petitioner testified that while Lots 1, 2142, 5845 and 4 were registered in the name of
respondent, these properties were acquired with the money he received from the Dutch government as
his disability benefit
12
since respondent did not have sufficient income to pay for their acquisition. He also
claimed that the joint affidavit they submitted before the Register of Deeds of Dumaguete City was
contrary to Article 89 of the Family Code, hence, invalid.
13

For her part, respondent maintained that the money used for the purchase of the lots came exclusively
from her personal funds, in particular, her earnings from selling jewelry as well as products from Avon,
Triumph and Tupperware.
14
She further asserted that after she filed for annulment of their marriage in
1996, petitioner transferred to their second house and brought along with him certain personal properties,
consisting of drills, a welding machine, grinders, clamps, etc. She alleged that these tools and equipment
have a total cost of P500,000.00.
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The RTC Ruling
On February 28, 2007, the RTC of Negros Oriental, Branch 34 rendered its Decision, dissolving the
parties conjugal partnership, awarding all the parcels of land to respondent as her paraphernal
properties; the tools and equipment in favor of petitioner as his exclusive properties; the two (2) houses
standing on Lots 1 and 2142 as co-owned by the parties, the dispositive of which reads:
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered granting the dissolution of the conjugal partnership of gains
between petitioner Willem Beumer and respondent Avelina Amores considering the fact that their
marriage was previously annulled by Branch 32 of this Court. The parcels of land covered by Transfer
Certificate of Titles Nos. 22846, 21974, 21306, 21307, 23567 and 23575 are hereby declared
paraphernal properties of respondent Avelina Amores due to the fact that while these real properties were
acquired by onerous title during their marital union, Willem Beumer, being a foreigner, is not allowed by
law to acquire any private land in the Philippines, except through inheritance.
The personal properties, i.e., tools and equipment mentioned in the complaint which were brought out by
Willem from the conjugal dwelling are hereby declared to be exclusively owned by the petitioner.
The two houses standing on the lots covered by Transfer Certificate of Title Nos. 21974 and 22846 are
hereby declared to be co-owned by the petitioner and the respondent since these were acquired during
their marital union and since there is no prohibition on foreigners from owning buildings and residential
units. Petitioner and respondent are, thereby, directed to subject this court for approval their project of
partition on the two houses aforementioned.
The Court finds no sufficient justification to award the counterclaim of respondent for attorneys fees
considering the well settled doctrine that there should be no premium on the right to litigate. The prayer
for moral damages are likewise denied for lack of merit.
No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
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It ruled that, regardless of the source of funds for the acquisition of Lots 1, 2142, 5845 and 4, petitioner
could not have acquired any right whatsoever over these properties as petitioner still attempted to acquire
them notwithstanding his knowledge of the constitutional prohibition against foreign ownership of private
lands.
17
This was made evident by the sworn statements petitioner executed purporting to show that the
subject parcels of land were purchased from the exclusive funds of his wife, the herein
respondent.
18
Petitioners plea for reimbursement for the amount he had paid to purchase the foregoing
properties on the basis of equity was likewise denied for not having come to court with clean hands.
The CA Ruling
Petitioner elevated the matter to the CA, contesting only the RTCs award of Lots 1, 2142, 5845 and 4 in
favor of respondent. He insisted that the money used to purchase the foregoing properties came from his
own capital funds and that they were registered in the name of his former wife only because of the
constitutional prohibition against foreign ownership. Thus, he prayed for reimbursement of one-half (1/2)
of the value of what he had paid in the purchase of the said properties, waiving the other half in favor of
his estranged ex-wife.
19

On October 8, 2009, the CA promulgated a Decision
20
affirming in toto the judgment rendered by the RTC
of Negros Oriental, Branch 34. The CA stressed the fact that petitioner was "well-aware of the
constitutional prohibition for aliens to acquire lands in the Philippines."
21
Hence, he cannot invoke equity
to support his claim for reimbursement.
Consequently, petitioner filed the instant Petition for Review on Certiorari assailing the CA Decision due
to the following error:
UNDER THE FACTS ESTABLISHED, THE COURT ERRED IN NOT SUSTAINING THE PETITIONERS
ATTEMPT AT SUBSEQUENTLY ASSERTING OR CLAIMING A RIGHT OF HALF OR WHOLE OF THE
PURCHASE PRICE USED IN THE PURCHASE OF THE REAL PROPERTIES SUBJECT OF THIS
CASE.
22
(Emphasis supplied)
The Ruling of the Court
The petition lacks merit.
The issue to be resolved is not of first impression. In In Re: Petition For Separation of Property-Elena
Buenaventura Muller v. Helmut Muller
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the Court had already denied a claim for reimbursement of the
value of purchased parcels of Philippine land instituted by a foreigner Helmut Muller, against his former
Filipina spouse, Elena Buenaventura Muller. It held that Helmut Muller cannot seek reimbursement on the
ground of equity where it is clear that he willingly and knowingly bought the property despite the
prohibition against foreign ownership of Philippine land
24
enshrined under Section 7, Article XII of the
1987 Philippine Constitution which reads:
Section 7. Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private lands shall be transferred or conveyed
except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain.
Undeniably, petitioner openly admitted that he "is well aware of the above-cited constitutional
prohibition"
25
and even asseverated that, because of such prohibition, he and respondent registered the
subject properties in the latters name.
26
Clearly, petitioners actuations showed his palpable intent to skirt
the constitutional prohibition. On the basis of such admission, the Court finds no reason why it should not
apply the Muller ruling and accordingly, deny petitioners claim for reimbursement.
As also explained in Muller, the time-honored principle is that he who seeks equity must do equity, and he
who comes into equity must come with clean hands. Conversely stated, he who has done inequity shall
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not be accorded equity. Thus, a litigant may be denied relief by a court of equity on the ground that his
conduct has been inequitable, unfair and dishonest, or fraudulent, or deceitful.
27

In this case, petitioners statements regarding the real source of the funds used to purchase the subject
parcels of land dilute the veracity of his claims: While admitting to have previously executed a joint
affidavit that respondents personal funds were used to purchase Lot 1,
28
he likewise claimed that his
personal disability funds were used to acquire the same. Evidently, these inconsistencies show his
untruthfulness. Thus, as petitioner has come before the Court with unclean hands, he is now precluded
from seeking any equitable refuge.
In any event, the Court cannot, even on the grounds of equity, grant reimbursement to petitioner given
that he acquired no right whatsoever over the subject properties by virtue of its unconstitutional purchase.
It is well-established that equity as a rule will follow the law and will not permit that to be done indirectly
which, because of public policy, cannot be done directly.
29
Surely, a contract that violates the Constitution
and the law is null and void, vests no rights, creates no obligations and produces no legal effect at
all.
30
Corollary thereto, under Article 1412 of the Civil Code,
31
petitioner cannot have the subject
properties deeded to him or allow him to recover the money he had spent for the purchase thereof. The
law will not aid either party to an illegal contract or agreement; it leaves the parties where it finds
them.
32
Indeed, one cannot salvage any rights from an unconstitutional transaction knowingly entered
into.
Neither can the Court grant petitioners claim for reimbursement on the basis of unjust enrichment.
33
As
held in Frenzel v. Catito, a case also involving a foreigner seeking monetary reimbursement for money
spent on purchase of Philippine land, the provision on unjust enrichment does not apply if the action is
proscribed by the Constitution, to wit:
Futile, too, is petitioner's reliance on Article 22 of the New Civil Code which reads:
Art. 22. Every person who through an act of performance by another, or any other means, acquires or
comes into possession of something at the expense of the latter without just or legal ground, shall return
the same to him.1wphi1
The provision is expressed in the maxim: "MEMO CUM ALTERIUS DETER DETREMENTO PROTEST"
(No person should unjustly enrich himself at the expense of another). An action for recovery of what has
been paid without just cause has been designated as an accion in rem verso. This provision does not
apply if, as in this case, the action is proscribed by the Constitution or by the application of the pari delicto
doctrine. It may be unfair and unjust to bar the petitioner from filing an accion in rem verso over the
subject properties, or from recovering the money he paid for the said properties, but, as Lord Mansfield
stated in the early case of Holman v. Johnson: "The objection that a contract is immoral or illegal as
between the plaintiff and the defendant, sounds at all times very ill in the mouth of the defendant. It is not
for his sake, however, that the objection is ever allowed; but it is founded in general principles of policy,
which the defendant has the advantage of, contrary to the real justice, as between him and the
plaintiff."
34
(Citations omitted)
Nor would the denial of his claim amount to an injustice based on his foreign citizenship.
35
Precisely, it is
the Constitution itself which demarcates the rights of citizens and non-citizens in owning Philippine land.
To be sure, the constitutional ban against foreigners applies only to ownership of Philippine land and not
to the improvements built thereon, such as the two (2) houses standing on Lots 1 and 2142 which were
properly declared to be co-owned by the parties subject to partition. Needless to state, the purpose of the
prohibition is to conserve the national patrimony
36
and it is this policy which the Court is duty-bound to
protect.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. Accordingly, the assailed October 8, 2009 Decision and January
24, 2011 Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 01940 are AFFIRMED.
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SO ORDERED.
ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE
Associate Justice
WE CONCUR:
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson
ARTURO D. BRION
Associate Justice
MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO
Associate Justice
JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ
Associate Justice
A T T E S T A T I O N
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was
assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson, Second Division
C E R T I F I C A T I O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division Chairperson's Attestation, I certify
that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was
assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.
MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice